The 10 Best Episodes of Breaking Bad

by Charleh3 | created - 18 Jan 2012 | updated - 07 Jan 2014 | Public

Not a single episode of AMC's Breaking Bad can be considered anything less than sensational, but these are the ones that define the series...

(UPDATE: Honourable mentions now exist due to my addition of season five episodes, so don't think I can't count.)

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1. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Crawl Space (2011)

TV-14 | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.6
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Hank asks Walt to drive him to the laundry where the meth lab is hidden. Ted still won't pay the IRS so Skyler asks Saul for help, and Saul sends in his A-Team. Gus and Jesse return from Mexico, and Walt fears he is in trouble with Gus.

Director: Scott Winant | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 15,263

As the credits rolled, I found it physically difficult to breathe.

Without its final 10 minutes, 'Crawl Space' is as fantastic as we've come to expect from Breaking Bad. These last scenes, though, elevate the episode and create what is arguably one of television's greatest sequence of events - ever.

2. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Felina (2013)

TV-14 | 55 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.9
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Walter White makes one last attempt to secure his family's future, while also visiting some old enemies, during his final return to Albuquerque.

Director: Vince Gilligan | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 63,349

I have nothing to say about this episode. I have nothing I need to say. And I don't think I will really try to say anything.

If you saw 'Felina' - and no doubt that you did - then words aren't necessary. Everything paid off - everything was tied in a nice little bow, and as a result, I cried like I never have before. On each viewing. Several times.

And not just because Jesse - the moral compass from the beginning - has never had a happier day in his life. Not just because television's greatest ever character - with a legacy even larger than his pile of $80 million in cash - is now, finally, once and for all, dead. It's because this series, which opened my eyes and drastically changed my life the day I discovered it four years ago, is officially in the past. Apart from family, friends, food, oxygen...nothing has ever meant more to me than Breaking Bad. That's the true reason why 'Felina' brings me to tears. Having it be the best, most expertly crafted series finale in years is just a bonus.

"Guess I got what I deserved Kept you waiting there too long, my love All that time without a word Didn't know you'd think that I'd forget or I'd regret The special love I had for you, my baby blue."

Boy...and I thought 'Crystal Blue Persuasion' was fitting.

3. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Ozymandias (2013)

TV-14 | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.9
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Walt goes on the run. Jesse is taken hostage. Marie convinces Skyler to tell Walter, Jr. the truth.

Director: Rian Johnson | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 92,873

In 'Confessions', as I said, the walls come crumbling down. In 'Ozymandias', the rubble is swept away and long forgotten.

You all saw it. Everything Walter had worked for goes down the drain. His money, his empire, his family's safety...this episode shows us the end of the life of Walter White. The entire scene at the White residence - from Walt's cries for help while trying to organise his family ("No, no, NO!! I tried to save him!"), to Skyler's knife move (expertly foreshadowed in the eerie and devastating flashback that opens the episode), to her falling to her knees in the middle of the road after her baby's kidnapping - it all had me absolutely gasping for air.

Vince Gilligan himself calls this the single best episode of the entire series, and I can definitely see why.

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

4. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Face Off (2011)

TV-14 | 51 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.8
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Jesse is brought to the FBI for questioning on his knowledge of ricin. In a last effort to kill Gus, Walt must ask for help from an old enemy.

Director: Vince Gilligan | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 29,353

It might seem idealistic to have several of Breaking Bad's most recent episodes at the top of this list, but I wholly believe that 'Face Off' is the epitome of direction, writing and pure totality and satisfaction that this show has seen. Never before have I experienced a bow tied so tightly around anything as I did with this episode.

P.S. Please read my description of 'Half Measures' below to discover my thoughts on the episode that precedes this one, 'End Times'.

5. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Confessions (2013)

TV-14 | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.5
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Walt makes his next move against Hank, putting Hank in a tough position. Hank confronts Jesse and attempts to turn him against Walt, and Jesse decides it's time to move on. Meanwhile, Todd has taken over the business.

Director: Michael Slovis | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 15,994

In 'Confessions', the walls come crumbling down.

At the episode's end, I recall feeling completely overwhelmed with emotion - a strange concoction of tears formed in my eyes in response to an episode that wasn't even particularly sad or emotional. I felt similar to the way I did after watching 'Crawl Space' for the first time. After viewing 'Confessions', the only thing I could think was "Everything is coming to an end. This is the apocalypse." Never in Breaking Bad history have we had an event as serious or as collaterally damaging as the White's house being burned to the ground, and while a part of me knew Jesse wouldn't go through with it, I couldn't help but be slapped hard in the face (partially thanks to Dave Porter's absolutely insane score) by the fact that the show and its narrative had never been more unforgiving or raw. That final scene is like an explosive punch to the gut, and it will stay with me for a long time.

(It was also incredibly pleasing and satisfying for Jesse to not only find out the truth about Brock's poisoning, but to arrive at that point all on his own. Remarkably well-written.)

6. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Half Measures (2010)

TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.5
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Against Walt's advice, Jesse lashes out. Fearing for Jesse's safety, Walt takes drastic action to intervene. Meanwhile a tragic event leads to a shocking confrontation.

Director: Adam Bernstein | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 12,259

'Half Measures' is reflective of a lot of the entire show, in that it is slow-burning and meticulous. The scenes that I remember (scenes involving a paranoid Walt and/or Jesse) are the ones that brought the season to a sort of revelation, but the final scene will always stay with me as the most overpowering and extreme one yet (until, of course, a little episode we'll just call "411" came along...)

P.S. I think it's important for me to mention that, for a reason not even I can explain myself, I consider this episode and 'Full Measure' to be essentially one and the same (though by no means indistinguishable from each other). I could easily put 'Full Measure' here instead - because yes, I know, it's a breathtaking episode - but I just feel like it would be cheating if I put them both together on this list. I feel the same way about 'End Times' and 'Face Off' above - they're equal in quality, but they're just too incredibly serialized and important to each other to separate them on a list like this.

7. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Gliding Over All (2012)

TV-14 | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.5
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Walt expands his business overseas, and the money is pouring in.

Director: Michelle MacLaren | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 15,201

I'll admit two things - 1. A lot of this list may seem to be based upon nothing but crazy or cliffhanger endings, but don't think that I didn't taking entire episodes into consideration; 2. Nothing about 'Gliding Over All' was particularly "Top 10" material (even though it was an above average episode.) That said, I can't help but give this episode my highest praises, as it ended on undoubtedly the biggest moment of the entire series. From the pilot, we have been anticipating a Walt vs. Hank showdown, and the climax leading into it exceeded all my expectations. Similarly to 'Crawl Space' - out of sheer shock and exhilaration - I was close to tears by the end. I had been waiting for this moment for years, and now, finally...it's the endgame for Walter White.

8. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: ABQ (2009)

TV-14 | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.1
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Walt's lies have pushed Skyler to her limit. She leaves with the kids. Meanwhile, Jesse blames himself for Jane's death and goes into rehab.

Director: Adam Bernstein | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 10,609

'ABQ' closes out Breaking Bad's most open and shut season so far - and in explosive fashion. Such an abundance of things happen within the final minutes - Walter in remission, Skyler discovering her husband's lies and leaving him, the season-long-teased plane crash - and it is hard to digest them all without being completely overwhelmed.

9. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Phoenix (2009)

TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.1
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Walt and Skyler have a baby girl. Now that Jesse is hooked on heroin, Walt refuses to give him his money until he gets clean. Meanwhile, as an excuse for his money, Walt decides to donate the money to himself through his son's new website.

Director: Colin Bucksey | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 10,534

I could really just copy my description for the episode above and paste it here, but...well I won't, will I? Let's just say that it followed a similar formula and had just as much payoff. 'Phoenix' had a constant feeling of downfall and undoing that belittled the viewer, until one of the series' most pivotal moments transpired (again, it was the scene before the credits. Shock, horror!)

10. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Pilot (2008)

TV-MA | 58 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.9
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Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, chemistry teacher Walter White teams up with his former student, Jesse Pinkman, to cook and sell crystal meth.

Director: Vince Gilligan | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 16,752

While it's not exactly a breathtaking episode by any means, it sure is the best pilot I've ever seen. The opening and closing scenes in particular are among the most memorable moments of the show - the first scene is something all series' should strive for.

11. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: ...And the Bag's in the River (2008)

TV-14 | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.7
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Walt is struggling to decide if it's best to kill Krazy-8 or let him go.

Director: Adam Bernstein | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 11,153

HONOURABLE MENTION: This episode has elements of everything that I love - suspense, sorrow, prominent moral ambiguity and bottle episodes. I love Walt's deliberation of the situation. I love his light and heartfelt chat with Krazy-8. I love Krazy-8's betrayal of Walt and his climactic demise. I love that the majority of it all happened in the one place. Most of all, I love the incredible tease of an ending.

12. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Granite State (2013)

TV-14 | 55 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.6
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Walt struggles as he adapts to aspects of his new identity. Jesse plans an escape against Jack and his crew.

Director: Peter Gould | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 23,336

HONOURABLE MENTION: Following its earth-shattering predecessor, 'Granite State' was notably quiet - the calm before the deadly storm. And while some of these slower scenes were emotional and very important for Walter White's character, they're not the kind that rank among the best. The reason this episode makes the list is because of its final scene. Walter White sits alone, having lost everything, and is ready to surrender. Then Vince and his crew pull out their trump card - Gretchen and Elliot, the most important minor characters of the entire series. They're the ones that unknowingly drove Walter down this dangerous, legendary path, and now he's on his way back to bring it all full circle. This is easily one of the most important moments in Breaking Bad history, and the show knows it, as well - tying it all up with the theme song that has been with us since Walter ran over those trousers was a touch that, admittedly, brought me to tears.

13. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Grilled (2009)

TV-14 | 46 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.2
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Tuco takes Walt and Jesse prisoner.

Director: Charles Haid | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 11,415

HONOURABLE MENTION: 'Grilled' is another very single-minded episode that took Breaking Bad a big stride forward - and introduced who is utterly one of the show's most destructive and important characters. It was fresh, haunting and just what the series needed to take it to the next level of elitism.

(That bell...so...prefiguring!)

14. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Dead Freight (2012)

TV-14 | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.6
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The boys plan on robbing a train that has an entire car of methylamine.

Director: George Mastras | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 16,642

HONOURABLE MENTION: 'Dead Freight' provided a much needed and very heavy dose of action, and frankly, I've never seen a heist pulled off so masterfully. A remarkable plan conjured from nothing more than Jesse playing around with a straw was amplified by Dave Porter's longest and most intense music piece for the show yet - a piece that rivals his 'Crawl Space' number. That's enough to break into the top 10 alone, but with an ending as brutal and as horrifying as that, 'Dead Freight' is an instant classic.

15. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: Green Light (2010)

TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.2
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Walt's world crumbles even more when he finds out that Skyler is cheating on him. Jesse tries to set up a meeting with Gus to try and sell his own version of the blue meth. Meanwhile, Hank is growing obsessed with finding Heisenberg.

Director: Scott Winant | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 8,713

HONOURABLE MENTION: I know, I can't even believe it myself - Green Light!? Most people consider this one of the most boring episodes of the entire series, and for the most part, I wholeheartedly agree. There's one scene, though - the final scene - that I think flew over most people's heads, which is unfortunate considering how brilliant it is. Walt is at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively. Driving down the highway, he is listening to "In the Valley of the Sun" ("I knew that this was really love, now my life has just begun, the two of us are one...") when he comes to two sets of red stoplights. Gus' henchman Victor stops next to him and throws him the money from Jesse's cook, exclaiming, "Your half." Now Walt has to make a decision - what road does he go down? What path does he take? Which half of his life does he decide to stick with? Both lights go green, and the horn of the angry driver behind him wakes him from his daydream. He drives off down his chosen path as a singular green light is shown. This combined with both the lyrics of the song and Victor's "Your half" makes for one of the most thought-provoking and subtly game-changing scenes of both Breaking Bad and dramatic television as a whole.

16. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: 4 Days Out (2009)

TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.9
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Walt and Jesse become stranded out in the middle of the desert after cooking more crystal.

Director: Michelle MacLaren | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 10,609

HONOURABLE MENTION: I've mentioned that I love bottle episodes, so it's convenient that every season of Breaking Bad has its own. Not only is '4 Days Out' as dark as we had come to expect from the show, but it had some of the most hilarious moments of any dramatic TV show. Apart from that, it was just wonderful to see Walt and Jesse work together to create some of their proudest and most cheerful moments as a team.

-"A robot!?" -"Aaaaaaahh, wire!!"

17. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Episode: One Minute (2010)

TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.5
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Jesse ends up in the hospital after getting beaten up by Hank. Now he is threatening to press charges against the DEA. To stop him, Walt decides to bring Jesse on as his partner, once again.

Director: Michelle MacLaren | Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris

Votes: 12,808

HONOURABLE MENTION: I'll be honest and say that I have difficulty remembering the majority of 'One Minute' (did Hank pummel Jesse's face in this one or the one before...?) Yet, with a finale like that, who needs another 55 minutes of television? That showdown threw the show for another loop and was the most harrowing that Breaking Bad had ever been.

That damn car alarm didn't help my nerves, either.

(I now remember that Hank's pounding on Jesse and Jesse's amazing monologue were both in this episode...Should it go higher on the list now? Possibly, but I don't really have enough effort to go rearranging.)